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Genesis - Foxtrot CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.60 | 3547 ratings

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Per Kohler
5 stars 1972 wasn't exactly a year of bad harvest in progressive rock. Just have a look; Close to the Edge, Trilogy, Octopus, Thick as a Brick, Islands - Meddle (late 71), and Foxtrot. Even if you have a favorite in this collection you can't really talk about 'better' than the others, rather 'the best among the best'. Why isn't this year better than any other? Foxtrot is one out of six albums I've ever heard people mention as their fave Genesis record. Foxtrot is balancing on the keen edge where innocence meets proficiency. This will last for a swift period of transition, and then it's replaced by something else. Released in a fold-out sleeve with theological paintings by Paul Whitehead (all religious objects are a creation by the observer). Had 'Lord of the Rings' evolved some millenniums ago it could've been a Sunday ritual today. What about symphonic rock? Why not let Foxtrot become your cathedral city, where the boy is dean, and the choir-girls are witty?

On the LP there are photos of each and every band member on the inner-sleeve, all in black/white. Like taken by some box camera from the infancy of photo art. Foxtrot is unique, it's the one and only seventies studio album with this quality. The individual group member is aesthetically modeled, fitting the mood of the record. It ought to be a memorable moment worthy a continuation on the cd issues. The younger cd generation isn't even aware of their existence. They are relentlessly removed for no defensible reason. Is this a curse in the face of the reverend? Yes it is. Where mammon enters, art goes out. We will return to the cd layout but let's move on to a more tolerable subject, the music. You can ask any middling music fan about the name of the singer or the drummer in Genesis. They know about Selling England by the Pound and maybe even its subsequent scene show. They don't know about 'Can-Utility and the Coast Liners'. This is your own private property. You are allowed to carry out your analysis regarding its background, story and lyrics without outer disturbances. I spoke to a well-educated Englishman in mature age once, he just shook his head. This is not an obvious task, even with all available dictionaries and reference books. And when you've come to the conclusion that a certain King Canute is the target, there is still little comprehensible link to the title in literal meaning. At least from available information. This only enhances its value. For a Scandinavian observer there's reason to be attentive. His roots and kingdom included a large portion of the northern hemispheres. Still, for whom is this composition intended? The reason to why the final song on side A is relatively anonymous is because it goes beyond people's apprehension. It's placed between two chairs. The so-called serious listener can't take it with its loud and yelling instrumentation. Can the rock listener grasp its grandeur? You don't have to cudgel your brain.

During his lifetime, Bach was reputed as organ virtuous. Today some people even claim that he's an okay composer. You don't see anything where you stand. There are two band members who stand out here. They take no credit for their show, deeply embedded in the band formula as they are. They are authors and composers. Rutherford and Banks, 12-string and mellotron. Steve isn't necessarily excluded from the writing; the intro is related to what later became The Hermit or Entangled. But there are various claims to who exactly did what. Even from band members themselves. There is no stronger piece of music written for these two instruments, individually and/or in unison. Rutherford plays 12-string (with pal Hackett) accompanied by his bass pedals. His bass guitar comes in later with much distinct tones. Banks starts primly with organ pirouettes, catches his breath, and returns with a celestial chord progression on the mello. There's a combined organ / mello. section with some prominent percussive from the drummer. This is the definite display of the symphony orchestra outside the symphony orchestra itself!! The string sounds in 'Can-Utility'. Song four is not really a song, rather an album of its own. It's the record's evident focal point, together with its outstretched sibling on the other side. In two hundred years time 'Can-Utility' is a celebrated and fairly assessed item. It's not included on any official live album, I've only heard it once on a bootleg with dubious sound quality. An earlier version encompasses an even more extended instrumental section. Water, cloud, wind from times long past.

Why is a song 4,20, 7,35 or 12,52 long? Or even past 20 min.? Is it just a coincidence or a planned measure? In the case of Supper's Ready it wasn't composed or intended to cover an Lp side. It just happened to be that way! S.R. is the odd jewel in Genesis career with its mighty length. Floyd and in particular Yes returned to this pleasant format a number of times. Not even the most devoted fan of the genre would call S.R. a coherent song or even suite; its division in various subtitles is merely a collection of independent songs. It's rather the high quality of the compositions that ties them together, than an intentional affinity. With a less talented band it wouldn't work out, here it is turned into a lengthy, smooth and melodramatic 23-minute tour-de-force. The unrealistic is achieved; the sentiment of a suite is here. It's direct and spontaneous, Lovers leap, the vocals are running from first nano second of the song. Just like it had already done a previous section before your entry. It's accompanied by the trademark of the band, the 12-string guitars. They come from every possible angle. A clerical backing vocal from the pulpit followed by an electric piano. This electric piano is so self-evident, just like every tone had been written and placed here by a directing hand not long after the beginning of time? This is the true description of a timeless masterpiece. Just like Leonardo's Mona Lisa where the depicted moves her fingers. They come from position A, you see them in B, are immediately removed to C. You are only a fleeting onlooker. The same phenomenon applies to S.R. Had Aristotle been asked about its running time, he would have come up with an exact answer. T.G.E.S.M. (we save space here) is taken from Banks' chest of drawers. Hadn't the song ended up as a part of S.R., we have no further knowledge about its destiny. Maybe shelved in the manner of song A Trick of the Tail?

The second sub title is as solid as an ice sculpture preserved by a faint and distant polar sun. Now we know that it stops abruptly, and enter the children voices. Who they are, how the recording was done, the idea? You will not find any info on the album. They must, after all, be regarded as guest artists (like the case on The Wall). This is a dim and vague tale. Part 3 contains some sharp/up mixed Hammond. Collins renders a drum pattern solely constructed for the S.R. listener. The Hammond is not to be overlooked. Foxtrot is the last recording to feature this raw and earthy keyboard. You can find it on every single seventies album but in a totally different role. Some or quite a few people regard the keyboard stack as one single unit. To compare a Hammond with a synthesizer is like the case of an electric guitar and a banjo. Foxtrot marks the end of an era in the choice of keyboard textures. Yes was with the arrival of Wakeman two years (two albums) ahead of Genesis in this regard. I can't see it as a lost period. A synthesizer is a marzipan cake (with frosting) at a birthday party. You want one or two good slices and then stop. A Hammond may not be as sugary and sweet but it draws nourishment from all parts of the diet circle. It's a matter of mixing/arr. of course but the synth has a tendency to place itself above other instruments. The Hammond is playing together. Banks started as pianist, went from here to the organ. These two, plus mello. were predominant on trio Trespass, Nursery and here. On third try Foxtrot, above all S.R., Banks is taking command of the roaring beast. Had the synth been attendant, not only would it have sounded differently, but most likely it had been played differently! The technique differs, on a synth it's tempting to speed up, as it is meant as a solo instrument. Therefore it affects the outcome of the final product, the music. In principle all solos after Foxtrot are performed on synthesizer. You can state that the Hammond organ, in its capacity as a diverse and multi-colored sound source, stayed on the mythological Foxtrot album. The gods were satisfied and saturated.

Back to life, an (intellectual) hard rock solo from Steve Hackett follows. Is this his most explosive moment during the Gabriel era? Or on the whole? There's not only one guitar but two competing for space. This is normally found in harder bands but certainly an unwonted case in Genesis. It has a lot of aggressiveness in it, as a total contrast to the gentle Horizons (which also on occasions was performed on electric live). Willow Farm is a snappy and shrewd piece of the puzzle. The same tongue in cheek lyrics as Harold the Barrel and just as ingenious. Added sound effects give it a look of a pure Monty Python sketch. Almost all subtitles on S.R. have a streak of irony and playfulness, W.F. is a true jugglery with words, it is hand woven and fitting a British art rock band. It's rhythmical and steady, and unsurpassable in originality. The acoustic piano part is the only (untreated) to be found on S.R. Gabriel even mentions Winston Churchill; possibly did he inspire Waters to say Maggie a decade later. In any case, Willow Farm is fully possible to cut out from its context and be offered a space of its own. It became the B-side of the lone single. Despite these praises, it's hereafter that the tension starts to rise, like the entrance of phase two. Willow Farm was preceded by a meditative and transcendental section. It comes as no surprise as a 23-minute piece is meant to comprise the complete circular tour. An instrumental piece with electric guitar, flute and organ is next in the queue. Even an acoustic six string is slunk in, its second appearance on the record. Compare the electric on Seconds Out to the original and notice that several tones are missing on the live version. Now the crescendo is closing in. The introducing vocal on Apocalypse is in its short presentation the most under-developed you will encounter, in proportion to its sheer excellence. It is rich but could have been richer. Not the easiest time signature to sing in, just how to cut off last word "easy". You can rightly ask yourself, did all involved here contemplate its mega potential? Yes, probably they did, the remaining part of Apocalypse is on a par with the few melody lines included. It implies that one irreplaceable part has to give in for the other.

Just repeat what was written earlier regarding the Hammond and the instrumental part of Apocalypse in 9/8 is in your hand. This is the harlequin dance in the mist of the moonlit night. If you're not in complete ecstasy when six, six, six (still 9/8) are cried out you are among the eternal lost souls. For us faithful, the curtain rises! The lyrical side, which is central, has been eyed and evaluated similarly to The Lamb story. The difference is that the title from '72 is condensed to one side and not four. The characters are found in the underground and not in the subway. The instrumentation on S.R. includes a rare cello display by Michael Rutherford. Not that it's dominating in strength or length, but it has a vast symbolical value. The will to do something outside the "basic" instrumentation is crucial. The same story with the backing vocals. The entire band (minus Hackett) is mentioned here. 5-10 seconds are an eternity more than an empty space. From the halls and dining-rooms hidden behind the massive castle walls echo laughter and hilarity. Time Table is a noble and aristocratic effort by Tony Banks. The instrumentation is basic and could almost have been recorded live in the studio. This is typical for the period 71-72, where simplicity in sound pictures walks hand in hand with their more bombastic counterparts. It's not only a planned outcome; it's just as much a result of the limited recording facilities. Five years later there was everything in the studio, that is the loss of the naked/simple tone. The piano intro is so classical sounding, not impossible for the decent amateur to copy if you're able to play two handed. It's antiquated in its splendid melodious genuineness. Gabriel's vocal is adapted to its palatial environment. The audience consisting of ladies-in-waiting with grease-painted faces is a worthy setting. You wouldn't mind being a part here yourself, to become knight for a day. And when the mini-concerto is over just take your chosen duchess by the hand for a stroll in the well-tended garden.

Yet another swirling Hammond piece (what else?) is offered in Get 'em out by Friday. This is a stark contrast not only on Foxtrot but to all previous stories written by Gabriel. I believe this is the sole lyric by the lead vocalist on side A. Quality wise this is one too little. Get 'em out is probably a try to widen the groups lyrical side. A more down-to-earth approach instead of the usual fairy tale- and histrionic story. If you like...Maybe it's based on a real event. No extended instrumental flights, a minuscule guitar solo but not much more. A steady and firm musical piece in a much unified way. Also it has a tendency to grow from the first couple of listenings. I wasn't a true believer myself, with its almost 10-minutes running time and belonging narration dressed in a musical costume. But I soon learned how to tackle it. Get 'em out is about the exposed person. Years later we'll find the same character in Not One of Us. Both cases could happen right next door to you. You have to cross an elongated bridge to reach other titles here? Watcher of the Skies is one of the definite examples of how to utilize the mighty mello. to the limit. The initial part runs for slightly more than 1,30, fades out slowly, the band enters in an all but ordinary time signature. There are more notes per bar than you have fingers on your hand. There are other things to be pointed out as well, the execution and originality of Rutherford's bass playing. In a contrapuntal environment with a multiple of lead instruments it's not unusual that the bass is buried in the ears of the listener. Its presence is just taken for granted. That's a pity because a shallow study doesn't say much about its possibilities. There are many great bassists in progressive rock, there's only one Mike Rutherford. Perhaps he hasn't reached his peak technically on Foxtrot, he is after all occupied with 12-string/rhythm, but the actual bass arrangements are worth a page for themselves. Just like on previous two albums, they are superior everything in the way of bass composing.

Is the instrumentation on Watcher obvious? There's an oboe playing alongside the guitar on a couple of short passages. Watcher was the show opener, what else would've shaken the concrete walls to crumbs? The lyric is a non-Gabriel poem, not a wasted feat but the most average element on the whole record. An abandoned alien figure watching the skies. There's word repetition; the front man would have done it a lot better (compare to side B). The single version of the work is worth your attention, the added end vocals/guitar is not to be missed. So what about Phil Collins and his vocal talents on his second outing with Genesis? Here is no For Absent Friends or More Fool Me, not even a Colony of Slippermen. Foxtrot is the drummer's least salient album as second- or co-vocalist. You can hardly distinguish his voice anywhere. And guitarist Hackett? Nobody wants to question his presence and embellishments on Foxtrot but you can't avoid the thought of how the various pieces of the vinyl disc had turned out if Anthony Phillips had stayed (provided that the other composers did the same, of course!).

Ant who was highly contributing to the band's writing would naturally have developed in harmony with Banks, Gabriel and Rutherford. Not a low creative quartet. It's almost scary, but is it realistic with an even sharper Supper or Coast Liners? Phillips was a more prolific writer than Hackett, at least during these early days, so the question is not irrelevant. Would Ant have widened the bands instrumentation in the manner of his long awaited solo album? No not really, but in capacity as co-founder and a principle writer he could've put more emphasis on his musical visions than Hackett was able to. This is a music review; it will escalate into a university paper if we continue. And the vinyl itself will end up as a full-bodied double-Lp! None of the cd issues can compete with the Lp. If it's not a nice price tag there's something else disturbing. The cd has garbled the original ground-plan. Bearing in mind that we're dealing with one of the absolute highest ranked, why not the highest, it adds only more indistinctness to its framework. The remastered cd may have improved sound; it has a supermarket-like campaign with complete discography (in colour). W&W is placed before Trick...Artwork has the same priority as the lyrics. The music is most important but if other components are deteriorated it will affect the final outcome, namely your listening experience. The back cover mentions all names of the five band members. This is informative on a big white strangely unfolded area covering the artwork. What would Paul Whitehead himself or responsible photographers utter? Don't they own some sort of copyright? Are they outfoxed by the record company executives?

Per Kohler | 5/5 |


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